Nikita certainly left us with a lot to think about almost a month ago. Not to mention, it teased us with the return of Owen (Devon Sawa), the rogue agent introduced in the "The Guardian"/"Resistance" two-parter. In other words, this episode has a lot on its plate from the word "go." Episodes with the highest expectations can also turn out to be the best for a series; look at last week, which certainly paid off what it promised.
We open with an excuse to show Maggie Q in a swimming pool. Nikita is obviously still struggling with betraying Michael at the end of "One Way," and she ends up physically struggling with Owen in the locker room. He's come looking for her help. "What did you do?" she asks. We cut to footage about the death of a candidate in Chile's upcoming presidential election; the news has tape of "American covert operatives" killing the man. The guys at the CIA are not pleased. "There will be retaliation against us," one agent says, while another brings up suspicious counter-intelligence activity that, of course, goes all the way back to the beginning of the series. He refers to Division as "like the dark matter of the universe." No one takes him seriously, since he's obviously right.
Nikita is not pleased that Owen leaked the information about the death to the press. He tells her that he used the leak to bait Percy into believing there's a system leak, which will lead him to call in an engineer who can tell them where the other black boxes are. While they're arguing, the CIA boss phones Percy about the leak, and Percy suggests making the smart agent, Ryan Fletcher (Damages' Noah Bean), as the fall guy. I am amused that they mention Oversight in this conversation, keeping intact the hierarchy from La Femme Nikita. Birkhoff and the recruits are assigned to create the paper trail that will incriminate Ryan, and Alex passes that information on to Nikita, who reluctantly agrees to work with Owen, as long as he plays by her rules.
Not realizing his boss is putting the screws to him, Ryan arrives at the CIA substation in Santiago, Chile. He hasn't even settled in when Nikita calls him to tell him that he's about to be framed for the presidential candidate's murder, and right after that, some unhappy rebels bust into the substation and start shooting. They're there for Ryan, whom they knock unconscious. Worst first five minutes of work ever.
Back at Division, Percy blames Nikita because he always blames Nikita. Michael corrects him that the source of the leak is, in fact, Owen. Michael is a bit more mellow than usual, given recent events (and we can all be amused by how Shane West is just starting to grow back the facial hair that keeps him from looking seventeen, after shaving it for "One Way"), but that doesn't mean he's impressed by Percy's plan to blame Ryan for everything. Percy just tells him to bring his best team.
Nikita arrives at the CIA substation in Santiago with a fake company ID and asks what happened. She gets onto Ryan's computer and pulls up information on where the rebels may be hiding out. Where that is, is not a vacation spot. It's a rundown building where Ryan is pleading innocence and no one believes him.
The engineer that Owen predicted would arrive at Division to deal with the data leak arrives, much to Birkhoff's annoyance, because he feels slighted and he doesn't like people touching his stuff. Percy arrives and explains about the leak, blaming it on the black boxes and not the people. He demands that the black boxes be updated without harming the data inside, and leaves just as quickly as he got there. I'm convinced that Xander Berkeley had all the training he needed for this role when he played George Mason in 24; the difference is that under the attitude, Mason was actually a pretty good man, and Percy is a jerk who, thus far, cannot be redeemed. It's as if he's George Mason's evil twin, minus the radiation poisoning.
Thanks to a TV in the building, Ryan sees that the US government is setting him up. He might not live to do anything about it, though, as he's being suffocated just as Nikita and Owen arrive. Plenty of shooting enuses on both sides, with him trapped in the middle, and it's pretty unbelievable that all those bullets can fly without him being hit once. Nikita frees Ryan, but they can't even get out the front door before a newly-arrived Michael and his team start firing on them. Michael gets this week's coolness points in my book because he comes armed with a rocket launcher. I absolutely love rocket launchers, and I love men who know how to handle them. He sends Nikita, Owen and Ryan fleeing into the forest.
Alex sets out to spy on the goings-on regarding the black boxes, even if this means sliding through air vents. (At least, unlike on this week's Human Target, the show does not feel the need to have Lyndsy Fonseca strip down half-naked to accomplish this.) She witnesses Birkhoff and the engineer snarking at each other, as the engineer feels that Birkhoff is beneath him. Birkhoff is not amused. The two eventually do manage to work together, at which time the engineer confides to Birkhoff - and, unknowingly, Alex - that Percy doesn't just have the trigger for the black boxes. He is the trigger. Take a moment and let that sink in for you. What it means is that should Percy get that hole in the head the audience believes he so badly deserves, as Michael has warned Nikita time and again, everyone else will pay the price. It's a decision that means the eventual endgame just got a whole lot thornier.
Running from Michael and the Division team, Nikita, Ryan and Owen run directly into the US Army and Ryan's CIA colleague, who is no longer a friend in the light of the frame job. They are well and truly surrounded, and are stuffed onto a military plane. At 30,000 feet, Ryan tries to convince his friend that he's an innocent man, while his CIA boss whines more in Percy's direction. He threatens Percy, but Percy reminds him of the existence of the black boxes.
As a thank-you for the engineer's work, Percy kills him. I don't mean the traditional TV cliche of having someone kill him; I mean that Percy isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and does it himself. A shocked Alex tries to turn and flee, but finds herself trapped in the vent thanks to (who else?) Jaden. Alex's nemesis is ripping apart her room looking for incriminating evidence, and uncovers it hiding in the stereo. She goes running to one of the guards, but Alex has escaped the vent and is just sitting there innocently when they come calling.
Ryan talks to Nikita in an attempt to clear his name, and only gets more questions from her. She decides that she can trust him, and begins to tell him everything he needs to know about Division. In return, she asks for his help identifying whomever is inside the government aiding and abetting Percy. Almost more importantly, she calls Owen her partner, suggesting he might be around for awhile longer. Owen gives Ryan the proof he needs, in exchange for his help getting them off the plane. Get off the plane they do, jumping in midair. Once the plane lands, Ryan's in custody but publicly planning to talk. Michael is surprised when Percy decides to ignore him entirely and "control the narrative."
Alex contacts Nikita, tipping her off that one of the black boxes is located in London, as Joey Greco kills Ryan's boss and makes him the fall guy instead. The guy was too much of a whiner for my taste, so I can't say I'm sorry to see him end up dead. Nikita tells Owen the intelligence that she got from Alex, and that "it's getting worse inside" for her. Owen surprises her by turning over the black box, which she proceeds to shoot a hole into. "One down, six to go," she tells him. "The seventh one's for Percy."
"Dark Matter" is a pretty good comeback after Nikita's several-week hiatus. It doesn't forget that the show left on a game-changing note, and it solidifies that Nikita isn't doing the job alone anymore. She has Alex, she refers to Owen as her partner which suggests she's willing to give him a bigger piece of the fight (and leaves the door open for yet more return appearances by Devon Sawa), and even Ryan could become a potential ally. That's good growth for the series, and she'll probably need all of them if the conspiracy is as far-reaching as the show is making it out to be. I'm just disappointed that there's not as much of Shane West in this episode as I'm used to, but I'd say that about any episode that's short on Michael. Frankly, I'm glad to have the show back, and making good on its promises to continue to advance the narrative. I just hope it doesn't get so big and complicated that it can't eventually come to a satisfying resolution.
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